We made it to Spring Break! It might have been over a week since the last entry, but that’s because this blog entry’s taken me so long to write! But that’s only because I’ve got a lot to say about my Spring Break! So jumping back to the 11th of March, I was making some final preparations for my trip which was very exciting but also nerve wracking. This wasn’t really helped by what happened that night and into the morning of the 12th. I ended up having not one, but 2 consecutive nightmares about missing my flight the next day! I was also unaware that daylight saving hours began in the U.S. today. It’s a good thing my flight wasn’t today or there would have been a strong possibility that I would have missed it! I woke up so panicked and confused, why would my brain do this to me! Anyway enough build up, now we get to the 13th of March and my Spring Break getaway!
I had to get up very early today as I was going to catch a bus that wasn’t too far from my flat (it’s much closer than getting the one form Collins Circle), so the bonus was that I didn’t have to get a taxi that would have cost me around $20. But the catch was that the bus only went every hour. I ended up waiting for a while at the bus stop, but the 117 bus eventually showed up. This was probably the most worrying part of my trip, because if I missed that bus everything else would be done in a panic!
Albany airport was quite small and after walking in and going up one escalator, I was already at security! After I was through it was only a matter of finding my gate and waiting for my plane to arrive! Yay for being early! Whilst waiting for my flight, I was messaging my mum and found out that I was the first person in my immediate family to ever do an internal flight in the U.S.! Not too bad for being the youngest child!
Anyway, when it was time to board my flight, I found out about the weird grouping system they have for boarding planes. It goes from A to C, and you’re also given a number from 1-60. Mine was C-35… When the guy checking people onto the plane got to group C, he jokingly said, “You’re the lucky ones, all you have to do is pick the middle seat you want”, very funny 😒. My flight wasn’t a direct flight, but I fortunately wouldn’t need to change planes. It would go from Albany to Baltimore and then on to Milwaukee, and ending up in San Francisco.
We got to Baltimore in no time, where upon arriving, everyone except myself and 5 other people got off the plane! It was so weird. It was just like a bus! But it was very interesting to still be there after everyone else got off, as you don’t usually get to see what happens when everyone get off on the plane. I also got a chance to switch seats because I, A: didn’t want the middle seat and B: didn’t want to be in the row where you have to open the door in case of an emergency. I asked the flight attendant if I was allowed to change seats, and when she came back after I did move, she jokingly commented, “oh, so you did move then”, I just replied “yea, I don’t want the responsibility”.
I’m now just realising that I haven’t disclosed where I’m going, (unless you either already know, or can guess from the title). So, to answer that, I was going to Wisconsin to visit and stay with my friend Kristin. Kristin was an exchange student at Swansea, and ended up taking an American Studies class as a replacement for another one that she wanted to take, but was full. But as a result of this, we ended up meeting and befriending each other, so I like to think that it worked out for the best! Now that I was in the U.S., it was only right that we meet up again in a sort of role reversal way. We’ve wanted to meet up for a while now, and Spring Break gave the perfect opportunity!
This flight was also the first time that I’d left New York state to visit another state, which was very exciting! Even though I didn’t leave the plane at Baltimore, I’m still saying it counts. So Maryland was the 2nd state that I’ve ever been in! The 3rd would be of course Wisconsin! We then set off again from Baltimore and shortly arrived in Milwaukee, as the plane was landing I took a look out the window and saw that pretty much everything was covered in snow! This was another first for me, landing when it was snowing!
Kristin would be picking me up from the airport, and then we’d be driving back to her family’s house. After manoeuvring my way around Milwaukee airport, I found her! After a very excitable cwtch (that’s a Welsh hug for those of you who were unaware), we were reunited at last! It felt very surreal to begin with, but I was so happy to see her and to be in some new surroundings. After about an hour’s drive north, we arrived at the town/city (I don’t know which to call it) of Kiel, which is where Kristin lives (props to Kristin for driving all that way in the snow!). When we were near their house, Kristin pointed out the mailman who always waves to her. He didn’t wave this time though…
Then when we go to the house I was first introduced to Lacy, their dog. She’s a very cute little Yorkshire terrier. She’s named after a Green Bay Packers player, (well she was, that sort of changed when I was visiting, I’ll explain all in due time) she also barked a LOT when I first arrived. She would not stop barking! Only when I crouched down and practically sat on the floor did she calm down somewhat. But whenever I got up or moved she gets mild amnesia and forgets who I am again! Then after we had some lunch (I had toast, Kristin had scrambled egg on toast, and according to her it was not Gordon Ramsey worthy), I met Kristin’s two older brothers. Then her dad came back with some “stolen” cookies (the checkout didn’t register it so he got them for free). Finally her mum (or I suppose it should be write mom) arrived home. When she did, she almost immediately asked for a cwtch!
I was a bit worried before coming here that I was going to be a burden, but from the super kind and warm welcome I got, I had no reason to worry at all. Except for Lacy, she was less welcoming, she didn’t really like me that much to begin with. But despite her ‘Lacynesia’, I’d like to think that I grew on her and by the end of it all we were best mates!
On my first full day in Wisconsin, I found out that there had been a huge snowstorm in Albany. Which resulted in many flights being delayed or cancelled, so it’s a very good thing I left before then! But that morning, as we were planning where to go, Kristin reacted in a very shocked and upset way to reading something. It turns out the player Lacy the dog was named after, was leaving the Green Bay Packers and moving to the Seattle Seahawks! This was big news (apparently), but I didn’t really think it would be that big of a deal initially, but I was very wrong! Kristin’s mom asked if she’d heard about it almost straight away, it was also the breaking news on TV and radio, and just generally all over the place. It was hysteria! It was like he’s died or something, not moving to another team! I jokingly asked Kristin if they were going to have to change Lacy’s name, but I don’t think she found it very funny.
Anyway funnily enough, Green Bay and Sturgeon Bay were on today’s agenda. We first went to DePere, which was part of Green Bay and also where Kristin’s college was. We went to her town house (it was very nice) to drop some of her stuff off. We had quite a bit of trouble actually getting in though. The key or the lock or both just didn’t seem to want to work and unlock the door! After quite some time and several key twists (we tried all the methods you could think of) we were in! Like I mentioned before, it was very nice. It had a little balcony that looked over a river and was 2 floors. But my favourite part was the big flags they had on display, for each country they had each stayed in as part of their year abroad. I was very happy to see the Welsh flag proudly on display (Cymru am Byth!)
After we’d done that, we decided we should probably get something to eat for lunch. To do this, Kristin had to drive down the road that had all the food places on either side of it to help me make a decision, because that’s just how indecisive I am! We decided on Panera Bread. It was perfect for us introverts, as you could order your meal without even needing to talk to anyone! You just picked your meal, filling, extras and what have you, on a machine, and someone would come and give you your order at your table. It was beautiful! Whilst driving to decide where to eat we drove by and had a quick look at Lambeau Field (the stadium where the Green Bay Packers play). It was huge! From what I’d seen so far, I was loving Wisconsin, and it was only going to get better!
Whilst driving to our next destination, the very oddly named ‘Door County’, and the various places within it; I couldn’t help listen to some very bizarre radio ads. The one that sticks out in my mind, was an add for some sort of fundraiser BBQ to raise money and awareness for heart problems. I swear to you the tagline was something along the lines of “The American Heart Foundation, brought to you by jumbo hot dogs!” You can’t make this stuff up!!!
Other interesting things to note whilst being a passenger and observing the surroundings, was the road signs. They have snowmobile warnings signs, similar to how they have them for deer, which I just find very amusing. Many place names are also named after other places in the world, and I found that funny too for some reason, oh yea it’s no big deal just driving past Plymouth and Sussex! Also for some reason as we were going further North the signs started to say that we were driving on the scenic route, but the only difference I could tell was that there were more trees. Oh that reminds me of another thing (I’m going off on tangent here but stay with me), another thing that struck me about Wisconsin was how flat everything was! When we were first driving around I could tell that something was bugging me and I couldn’t think what. Then Kristin mentioned how flat it was compared to Wales and that was it! I don’t know why I found it so weird, we joked every time there was even the slightest hill how crazy it was. The final but most entertaining/baffling thing that I’ll mention, was a sign like any other advertising the ‘Family Shooting Academy’!
The U.S. is a very different place to the UK. But I honestly love seeing little things like this when I visit new places.
I know Kristin and her mom might have felt like there wasn’t that much “exciting” things to do, but it was so nice to see another side to America, as up until 2 days ago I’d only had the New York experience. Seeing everyday, and what some people would call mundane life, is something I enjoy, as only then do you truly get a feel of the country you’re in and what everyday life is like .
Anyways, one final thing to note from my car observational tangent, although I guess this is less of an observation and more of just a funny little thing that happened. Throughout the day as we were in the car, Ed Sheeran’s song ‘Shape of You’ was played at least 4-5 times on the radio, and every time it would come on Kristin would turn it up in excitement. After the 4th time, I wondered what on earth was going on with that radio station!
Okay, back to our day trip, so next up was Egg Bay which was part of Door County (loving these names!), to go to a store that apparently sold British food. Unfortunately for us though, it was closed! We were both pretty upset about this, but we just had to keep calm and carry on; it was the only right thing to do after all. We then kept driving up North to get a good spot to view Lake Michigan (my first Great Lake viewing!). We stopped at a place called Ephraim to get a good view from one of the docks. The coolest part was that this entire section of the lake we were at was frozen over! I’d never seen anything like it before, just a massive body of water covered in ice and snow. It was amazing!
I took some photos and stayed for a while just taking it all in. But we didn’t stay for too long, as it was absolutely freezing, I think it might even have been below freezing if truth be told. The final visit on our day out on Wisconsin’s finger (on a map it’s kinda shaped like a finger), was Cave Point County Park. It was on the other side of the “finger” and once again looked out towards lake Michigan (which was only partly frozen here). I really loved this park. It had a nice wooded area (so scenic!) to walk along, that was right next to the lake. I couldn’t get over the fact that it was a lake and not the sea. It sounded and looked like the sea with the waves going against the small cliffs. There were also some crazy huge stalactites hanging from the indents in the cliff. Whilst we were walking along, I got sent a picture from Hugo of himself smoking a cigar and wearing sunglasses in sunny Cuba, and a picture of a really fancy apartment complex from Etsu in Miami, which were sent to our group chat. Caitlin also sent a video of the snowfall currently in Albany. It was amusing seeing the differences. Then there was me, by a partly frozen lake, below freezing with a blue(ish) sky above me, it’s a very odd picture. But out of them all, I wouldn’t want to switch places. The view I had was amazing, but more importantly, I had the best company!
When we got back, we had some home cooked leftovers (the best combination of things ever!) and watched some TV with Kristin’s family. As a result of this TV watching, I discovered a new show to watch! It’s called Trial & Error, it’s another mockumentary in the same vain as Parks and Recreation, but it’s about a lawyer from New York taking on murder trial, on the side of the defendant set in Carolina. It’s so good!
So we now move on to day 3 of Spring Break in the Midwest, I say this rather than Wisconsin, as today we were going to Chicago! We had to get up very early as we were catching a train from Milwaukee to Wisconsin. We were catching a train rather than driving there, as driving in Chicago is like driving in New York City! It was about an hour’s drive to Milwaukee, but when we got really close to the centre things got a bit more confusing and hectic. There were so many possible exits and then little streets to turn down it. Then there was the issue of finding a place to park! But once again, special shout out to Kristin for successfully getting us there; she did an amazing job and was way calmer than I would have been if I was driving in her situation!
This confusion of driving in Milwaukee had set us back a little on our schedule however. We now had to run/power walk to the train station. The security people could tell we were in a rush and knew what train we’d be on, so they very kindly (and somewhat carelessly) just let us through without checking our stuff. We made it with 2 minutes to spare! I don’t think either of us believed that we were going to make it in time, but we did it! During our train journey to Chicago (and my 4th state of Illinois, we’re rolling in states on his trip!), we got into a little debate about which train company was worse; Amtrak or Arriva Trains Wales. To anyone who lives in Wales or has been on several Arriva Trains Wales journeys, the answer is clear. But for some reason Kristin seemed to have a soft spot, and thinks Arriva Trains Wales were better. After I started talking about how bad they were, Kristin started to think back again about her experiences and realised just how weird and randomly bad they had been. So far, my 2 Amtrak experiences haven’t been that bad so I can’t really complain.
We then finally arrived in Chicago, and the first thing I noticed was how cold it was! It had been cold yesterday, but this was something else! It also reminded me of a mini New York City, but with a lake next to it instead of a river. Kristin’s mom had very generously paid for both of us to go up Willis/Sears Tower (I think I should refer to it as Sears Tower though, it’s like the Millennium/Principality Stadium thing in Wales), but we still had some time before we were slotted to go up. So in the mean time we went to a place I had wanted to go to for the longest time; The Bean! (it’s officially called ‘Cloud Gate’, but this is the 3rd time I’m referencing places with an official and unofficial name so I think I should stop!). It’s located in Millennium Park and is the coolest thing. It’s just a giant bean mirror. I don’t know why I love it so much, maybe it’s because I just like seeing things that you wouldn’t think to find somewhere. A funny thing I have to mention, is as we were approaching the Bean, we were behind a mother and her young son. You’d think a young child would be fascinated by this strange sculpture in the city, right? Well actually no! He was more interested in a random light blue pole thing that was near it. It was really funny seeing the mother try and get her son to show some interest in the bean, but with very little success.
We spent quite a while there and Kristin even got asked to take people’s pictures, twice! We then decided to make our way back to Sears Tower for another really cool experience in Chicago. I’m going to hit you with some facts now, so buckle up, ready? Okay, so Sears Tower was built from 1969-1973, and at the time of its completion was the tallest building in the world! (how cool is that!). It has a whopping 108 stories, and as of right now is the 16th tallest building in the world.
The views from the ‘Sky Deck’ (another name for it) were spectacular! Two things really struck me whilst we were up there. The first is that I was still baffled by the lake, as from up that high it looked just like the sea. The other thing being just how big and vast America truly is. It just seemed to stretch and continue endlessly. Maybe it’s just because I come from a country that’s an island (that seems weird to write, but it’s true) and that I’ve always lived near the coast; but the amount of land there is was incredible. Perhaps the coolest part of the experience is being able to stand in a mini perspex box and get a full view of the city. It was amazing, I think it’s the first time I’ve ever been that high up and be able to see what’s directly below my feet.
By the time we’d finished going up Sears Tower, it was around lunch time and we had a special place to visit; Nando’s! A restaurant specialising in chicken dishes and spices. They originate from South Africa but are quite widespread across the UK. Seeing as that’s where the phrase “a cheeky Nando’s” comes from. Kristin got to experience them in the UK and seeing as there are very few Nando’s in the U.S., it was the perfect thing to do. It was weird to think that I was having a cheeky Nando’s in America but there we are. After that I don’t think we had anywhere specific to go, so we just walked through the city for a bit. We ended up at Navy Pier, a really cool spot that had a Ferris wheel and some really fancy boats. It also had a speaker playing music selected by people through an app or something. So as a result of this I learnt about the ‘Michelle Obama’ song (I don’t think that’s the songs actual title but whatever).
This is probably the 4th or 5th time I’m mentioning it but it’s important! The Lake! Up this close it looked just like the sea, it’s crazy how similar it looked. It was also really cold and windy here but the view of the city was so cool! As we were walking around the city there were loads of StPatrick’s day themed stuff all around. They even dyed one of the rivers green (it looked pretty nasty though). As we were walking back from the pier, I think we were both getting pretty worn out. When we finally got back to Millennium Park we had to sit down at a bench to recover for a while. Whilst we were sitting down we did some people watching, which is always a fun activity. I think our favourite was an elderly Spanish couple who were having their picture taken with everything. The husband even did the raised knee pose next to a tree, it was very amusing to watch.
After we gained a bit of our energy back, we visited the bean again. It was a lot busier at this time of the day though. After that I think we decided that we could head back to the train station and wait for our train. We were the first people in the waiting area and passed the time by me reading out loud some funny/rude place names in the UK (there’s surprisingly a huge amount). On the train back we then played some madlibs to pass the time. When we got back to the car, we were both pretty tired from out big day out in Chicago, but that soon changed as we got driving. This was all thanks to Lorde’s new song Green Light, which we both love! It was played about 3 times as we were driving back, and every time it came on it was the best!
We both agreed that this song was so underappreciated, as our own friends didn’t share our love for this song, it’s just so good! In Kristin’s own words, it’s a “Certified Banger”!
I’d really enjoyed my time in Chicago, and it’s definitely become one of my favourite cities! This day was topped off with a hugely generous gift. When we were watching TV in the evening, Kristin’s mom came and gave me a bag absolutely filled with gifts. I was so overwhelmed by their generosity and kindness. The whole family had already been the most amazing hosts, but this just showed what kind and lovely people they were. Three days ago they hadn’t even met me but they still treated me so well. They’re some of the nicest people ever and deserve all the best in life!
Now, we’re already at my last day in Wisconsin which is hard to believe and quite sad. It was an interesting start to the day, I had been warned before that Lacy might try and get into the room I was sleeping in which was Kristin’s room. I didn’t think there was any chance at all of her getting in as I shut the door pretty firmly. Well, in the morning I heard some scratching at the door, and then all of a sudden, she as in my room! I was expecting her to start barking at me a lot like she usually does in the morning, when she forgets who I am. But to my utter surprise, she didn’t. Instead she jumped onto the bed and curled up next to me! She finally accepted me! I told you we’d be pals by the end of my stay here.
Even though I was flying back today it wouldn’t be until after 6:00 pm, so there was still time to do some stuff. What did we end up doing? Well we went somewhere very special. We went to Wales! Yes, you read that correctly; Wales! There’s a village in Wisconsin called Wales. It was the coolest little place that was founded by Welsh immigrants, which explains a lot. They had a welsh flag next to the American flag at the town hall, and all the road signs had a little red dragon next to them! The best bit though was the road/drive names, with their obvious Welsh inspiration from actual places in Wales and other things Welsh.
I’m just going to list a few of them here: Welsh Road, Dylan Road & Thomas Road (which were right next to, and went into each other. A very nice touch!), Cardiff Road, Swansea Glen (Yay Swansea!), Holyhead Drive, Llamberris Pass (yes with an ‘m’ for some reason), Caernarvon Road (yes with a ‘v’, these are some odd spelling choices), Snowdon Drive (I’m being serious with these spellings…), Valley View Road, StDavids Drive, Bryn Mawr Road, Harvest View Road (I’d like to think this was a reference to Haverfordwest maybe?), Taliesin Road. The one that I love and freaked out the most about though was; Crymyc Court! Obviously this was inspired from Crymych, which is only 10-15 minutes away from where my home is and where I went to Secondary School! I just find it hilarious little old Crymrych has a place named after it in America! I also find it funny that they had to take out the ‘h’ as most people who don’t speak Welsh can’t pronounce the Welsh ‘ch’ sound.
After that cool and rather surreal experience it was onto another one for me. It was time to go to the one and only (but not literally only) Cheesecake Factory! I had been waiting to go there for the longest time, and that time had finally arrived! The building itself was surprisingly tall and the interior design might not have been to everyone’s choice, but I really liked it. I ordered a small BBQ pizza (which was amazing), a lemonade (also really amazing), and finally of course the important part; a chocolate mousse cheesecake (THE most amazing thing ever!). I decided to risk eating my cheesecake at the restaurant instead of having it to go. But even if I wanted to have it to go, I wouldn’t have fork to eat it with until I got back to Albany. It took me a while to decide what cheesecake I wanted, there were so many good choices I had to narrow it down from 5 different types! It was one of the best cheesecakes I’ve ever had, it was pure bliss. Although as hard as I tried, I just couldn’t finish it. I really wanted to but I feared the consequences of stuffing my face too much… Regardless, I’m so thankful Kristin brought me here, it was an amazing experience, even if it sounds like I’m being overly dramatic, I don’t care, I loved it!
Now however we come to the sad part of my trip; saying goodbye once again. We were a bit early getting to the airport so we just sat by the entrance to security for a while just talking before I had to go. I was so glad that I came to Wisconsin, and I can’t thank Kristin and her family enough for being so inviting and letting me stay with them. I’m thoroughly going to miss them. Not wanting to put off the inevitable for too long, I thought I’d better get going. With one final cwtch I said my goodbyes and was gone.
Getting through security was easy enough, but I was worried about what was next. My connecting flight was once again in Baltimore, but this time I actually had to switch planes there. I was waiting for quite a while for my plane to arrive, so long in fact that it was about 15 minutes late! This was bad news for anyone who would be changing flights at Baltimore, which just so happened to be the situation I was in! I was very anxious and worried getting onto the place when it finally did show up. Sitting in the middle seat once again, I was running different scenarios in my head of what was going to happen and what I could do. Bear in mind this was my first time ever getting a connecting flight and changing planes, so I had no prior experiences to go off.
As I was thinking through, the pilot announced that this flight would be late as was written on the flight info. But that also the flight information was written down incorrectly! The flight time was going to be shorter then what was on the flight info. Due to this, the flight would end up making back 15 minutes! So we’d basically be right back on schedule, crisis averted!!! This is the kind of stoke of luck I love!
So once we arrived in Baltimore, I was surprisingly able to find my gate to Albany with ease. I didn’t have to wait that long either, it was perfectly timed in the end! In no time at all I was back in the air and on my way back to Albany. On this flight, I was able to do something that I don’t think I’ll ever get the chance to do ever again. I could say “I can see my house from here” and actually mean it! As we were landing in Albany we were flying quite low and I could see the university and my flat not too far away. How cool is that!
When the flight landed in Albany, it was around 11:00pm, and I was faced with my final challenge. Getting back to my flat! The bus that I had got to the airport on the 13th wasn’t running at this time, and I didn’t know anyone I could ask with a car. So my only option was to call/find a taxi. I thought I’d be waiting for ages if I called a taxi, so I thought I first better go outside the airport and see if there were any just waiting. A guy clearly saw what I was in search of and offered me a ride. Perfect! He then walked me over to another guy and told him where I needed to go, then myself and some other random woman hopped in and were off.
As we were driving, I saw the huge amount of snow that was still leftover from that snowfall on the 14th. The taxi guy drove right outside my place (probably to run up the meter, but I was just glad to have arrived back in one piece), and it oddly felt nice to be back, in a relieved sort of way. I was so relieved and proud of what I’d done on my own, and was just happy that I’d gone ahead and done something for my Spring Break. It was a lot of fun and so worth it!
There you have it, what I got up to over Spring Break (long time coming, I know). But thank you for reading all the way until the end, this has been my longest blog yet! It’s even longer than some of my essays I’ve written at Albany! (I don’t know if that’s a good thing or a bad thing!). I’m still around a month behind but I don’t think that’ll change any time soon. Anyway, this is where this blog ends, I hope you enjoyed it, until next time.